It is a compelling story: a thirteen-year-
It is also a familiar story: exile and the yearning for return, after all, are embedded in the memory of the Jewish people. Precisely that yearning framed Zionism and the birth of
Abbas reiterated familiar Palestinian tropes with a new twist. Following the UN partition recommendation of 1947, he asserted, "Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future State of Israel, and Arab armies intervened."
That is exactly backward.
It was the Arab invasion ("intervention"
The day before Abbas's op-ed appeared, Prime Minister Netanyahu reminded the Knesset that the "root of this conflict never was a Palestinian state, or lack thereof. [It] is, and always has been, their refusal to recognize the Jewish state. It is not a conflict over 1967, but over 1948, over the very existence of the State of Israel."
Netanyahu firmly stated Israeli peace terms: the Palestinian Authority (with its recently restored partner Hamas) must recognize
Natanyahu did not itemize the "painful concessions" required of
Implicit in their removal would be
Among the Israelis implicitly slated for expulsion by Netanyahu's exemption are the residents of Elon Moreh, where God promised Abraham, "To your descendants I will give this land." Their exodus would be shared by the inhabitants of nearby Shilo, site of the sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant, brought from Sinai after the exodus from Egypt; residents of Beit El, where Jacob dreamed of the angels; and the Jews of Hebron, the oldest Jewish city in the land of Israel, where the tombs of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs are located.
Netanyahu's right-wing Knesset critics responded furiously to his settlement "bloc" statement. National Union party chairman Ya'akov Katz decried the prospect of the prime minister "drawing up a list of who will be expelled and who will not." Likud leader Danny Danon suggested that
MK Tzipi Hotovely reminded Netanyahu that a return to 1967 borders would also mean the repartitioning of
But it was President Obama's May 19 speech that blew the lid off the land-for-peace pot. "The dream of a Jewish and democratic state," he warned – echoing the mantra of Jeremy Ben-Ami's
Obama thereby repudiated presidential assurances to Israel that began with Lyndon Johnson and included President Bush's letter to Prime Minister Sharon (2004): "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
Obama embraced Abbas's insistence that
Obama's willingness to sacrifice Israeli security infuriated Netanyahu, whose sharp protest to Secretary of State Clinton impacted on presidential comments when the two leaders met with reporters the next day. Obama's boilerplate about firm American bonds with
When Netanyahu spoke, he turned to the president and stated bluntly that
The "Obamination" (as
In his AIPAC speech on Sunday, Obama still remained silent on the Palestinian refugees' "right of return." Instead, he raised another demographic bogeyman: "the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both
But respected Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger, noting that 66 percent of the population between the Jordan and Mediterranean is Jewish, has concluded from stable Palestinian and rising Jewish birth rates that "there is no demographic machete at the throat of the Jewish state." But Palestinian exaggerations are catnip for "demographers of doom," whose ranks Obama has now joined.
Obama desperately needs a history lesson. The League of Nations Mandate (1922), citing "the historical connection of the Jewish people with
Sixty-four years ago the UN voted for a Palestinian state alongside
The lingering question is whether Netanyahu will stand firm or, as he did with Clinton over
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of "Hebron Jews" (2009). His new book, "Brothers at War:
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
AUERBACH'S BOOK ABOUT NETANYAHU ABBAS OBAMA